Just how much do you know about Albinism, really?
Albinism is a congenital disorder in human beings
It is the result of inherited recessive genes.
It is characterized by the absence (partial and complete) of pigmentation in the eyes, skin and hair in an individual.
Albinism is usually associated with certain vision problems including amblyopia, nystagmus and photophobia.
Also, the low (or total absence of) skin pigmentations makes the individual more susceptible to not only sunburn, but skin cancer as well.
Did you know that Albinism doesn’t affect just humans but all vertebrates?
The term ‘Albinism’ is derived from the Latin word – Albus, which means ‘white’.
Signs & Symptoms
There are primarily two types of Albinism in humans:
Ocular Albinism – which affects only the eyes, which is usually characterized by light blue eyes and are usually diagnosed by genetic testing.
Note this is completely different from the next kind of albinism.
Oculocutaneous – which affects the skin, hair and eyes as well. The individual here is very white or pale as the melanin pigments required for black, brown and yellows colorations are absent.
Also, people with albinism usually have ‘red eye’ or ‘albino eyes’ again due to the absence of pigmentation required to color the iris is lacking.
The absence of pigmentation in the eyes causes multiple eye problems including photosensitivity.
While those with this condition as just s healthy as the next person, there are some ailments that found to be recurring in albino people:
Optic Nerve Hypoplasia – which is basically the under development if the optic nerve.
Amblyopia – which is the decrease in the sharpness of the eyes as a result of the limited transmission to the brain.
Nystagmus – which is the fast movement of the eyes in a circular or back and forth motion.
The reason for multiple eyes defects being common in with albino people is the fact that the optical system’s development is dependent on melanin.
There is no cure for albinism.
Because of this, the condition is managed by multiple lifestyle altercations.
Some of which include undertaking in ‘visual rehabilitation’ and avoiding spending too much time under the sun.
Surgeries are also taken to manage strabismus and Nystagmus.
However, the full effects of the surgery vary from individual to individual.
Many people with Albinism used vision aids such as glasses (bifocals, monoculars, prescription glasses, etc) and angled reading lights.
While Albinism is entirely biological, many albinos have faced various cultural and social challenges.
In many parts of the world, the condition has been seen as a source of ridicule, alienation, attacks, discrimination and threats, which is quite unfortunate.
A study which was conducted in Nigeria backed up this notion; even further noting additional qualms for albinos such as emotional instability and limited social interactions.
The study also identified problems such as finding partners, employment or even completing school affected albinos as a result of the ridicule, discrimination, alienation and attacks.
There has been incidents in several African Countries such as Burundi and Tanzania which involve the killing of albino babies and albino people for witchcraft.
Their body parts are also used in making potions sold by witch doctors.
You might think this is a thing of the past but even as recent as 2009, 3 men were convicted in Tanzania, for murdering a 14 year old Albino boy and cutting his legs to sell them for witchcraft.
The worth of an set of albino body parts in Tanzania is estimated at $75,000 by National Geographic.
This is a problem that needs to not only be addressed but major steps should be taken to protect albinos in these countries.
Albinism mostly affects people of ethnic heritage.
Which is why there are more albino black people than of any other heritage; this can be seen by the number of Black Albinos, Albino Africans and Albino Black Persons in general, totaling up to 17,000 worldwide.
The highest percentage found among those from sub Saharan Africa.
The United Nations instituted the 13th of June as International Albinism Awareness Day.
Notable People With Albinism
Abdallah Possi – Tanzanian Deputy Government Minister
Connie Chiu – Chinese model with Jean Paul Gaultier
Edgar Winter & Johnny Winter – American musicians/Blues brothersSeinei – 5th Century Emperor of Japan
Seinei – 5th Century Emperor of Japan
Brooke Fox – American Musician
Darnell Swallow – Big Brother UK Contestant in 2008
Redford White – Filipino Comedian
Salum Khalfani Bar’wani – Tanzanian Politician